Avoid conflict; communicate, communicate, communicate!

communicateI was recently returning from a fabulous day out in London. To cut a long story short, it took 4 hours and 4 trains to take a 50 minute journey that is usually undertaken by one train.

Everyone was getting restless – particularly when it transpired that one train had been taken out of service because the driver hadn’t arrived. Another one was taken out of service and a new one designated on a different and distant platform. We found out by seeing a change on the indicator – not because there was an announcement.

I absolutely understand that ‘life happens’ – and I could afford to be sanguine – I had the weekend papers with me and, if all else failed, I could play hangman with my youngest.

screamHowever, at one point we had been waiting in the station for 20 minutes when an extremely anxious father of a young child jumped up out of his chair and screamed in despaiar down a platform that was devoid of staff “Just tell us what is happening! We need to know!” There was no response.

If only someone had told ALL of us what was happening, we could maybe have jumped off the train and got some refreshments, gone to the toilet, been assured. People were saying “Why won’t they tell us what’s going on?”, “Even if they don’t know what’s going on, if they told us that, at least that would be news!”, “this is just typical!” Ever heard those phrases when people are in the dark at work?

It is essential to the wellbeing of the staff and the smooth transition of change to communicate, communicate, listen and then communicate again. When people don’t know what is happening, they will fill in the gaps – and usually that doesn’t help matters. They start boxing shadows and having frequent water cooler conversations that create further stress and anxiety.

Even if there is no news, that is new in itself, transparent guesstimates are respected more than nothing – and giving the context that everything is up for discussion at the moment, so any news would not be enlightening – as it can create stress around issues that may never happen – and as soon as you have some concrete news, you’ll communicate it – that’s news!

And try to make the news positive – reframe challenges into opportunities – recognise how the news could be more palatable – maybe in bite sized chunks? For example, did we really need to know that a driver hadn’t turned up? Wasn’t that because he couldn’t get to the station as all the trains were backed up? I guessed so, but from the discussions that were taking place around me, I’m not sure if that was how it was received by everyone on board. Somehow, that could have been presented more positively.

listenIf someone had said to the travellers on the train that there was a signal failure at Watford (which there was) and that this had caused a massive backlog of trains (which it had), consequently, there will be significant delays (which there were), but there would be updates as soon as they were available (which there weren’t). Well, I wouldn’t have the basis for this blog, would I, but we’d all have had a more relaxing journey home.

Communication – The Cardigans

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